Women’s unpaid caregiving is worth more than $625 billion – and it could cost more

by , | Aug 14, 2023 | Fair Pay

Providing caregiving support for loved ones is a common part of many people’s lives – especially for women. Women are more likely than men to spend time caring for loved ones, and women caregivers average more time caregiving than men caregivers. But just how big is this caregiving gap?

National Partnership analysis of the recently released 2022 American Time Use Survey shows that men report spending just over 26 minutes a day caring for children, other family members and people outside of their home, whereas women average a bit under 52 minutes, meaning men only do half (51 percent) as much caregiving as women. This gap means that women average 25 more additional minutes of caregiving than men each day, amounting to an additional 153 hours of care annually – four full work weeks a year.

But this isn’t about men versus women – the financial implications of unpaid care for both are significant. For example, if time spent on unpaid care were compensated at the far-too-low average wages paid to a child care worker or a home health or personal care aide, each man would receive roughly $2,300 annually while each woman would receive roughly $4,600 annually. In wages alone this unpaid carework is worth more than $300 billion annually for men – and more than $625 billion for women.

This caregiving gap reflects the reality that women are both more likely to be caregivers and to spend more time providing care. For example, the data show that women are more likely to be engaged in caregiving compared to men, with more than a quarter of all women (26.1 percent) reporting caring for household members compared to one in six men (16.9 percent). This disparity persists across all types of care, including for children and for non-household members. Nearly 22 percent of all women report caring for children who live with them, compared to close to 14 percent of men. And among caregivers, a gender gap in time spent on caregiving persists in most instances. For example, among people providing care for children who live with them, men spend only 76 percent of the time caregiving that women do, meaning women caregivers provide an additional 31 minutes of care for children each day compared to men. The only instance in which men caregivers are spending more time providing care than women is among people caring for non-household adults – where men average less than 2 more minutes of care per day.

Caregiving responsibilities are shaping women’s and men’s work lives, as well as their home lives. Data from the same survey reveal that since COVID, women are especially likely to be working remotely, which can help workers balance work and caregiving responsibilities. In fact, recent research shows that nearly three-quarters of working caregivers spend the time they save by not commuting with their children. And remote work may be especially important for some family caregivers with long-term care responsibilities.

The data also show that a caregiving gap persists across groups of women: Asian women, white women, Black women and Latinas all spend more time providing care than men overall, with Latinas spending the most time caregiving across all groups – more than an hour a day. This disproportionate burden may be contributing to women’s especially strong support for crucial caregiving investments such as paid leave, child care, and home- and community-based services. We know that investing in care policies helps make caregiving more gender-equitable: new research shows that paid sick days laws increase the time employed men take to care for sick family members. But the shuttering of pandemic-era programs that support caregiving – combined with the fact that paid care jobs in the nursing and residential care and child care fields are still nearly 260,000 jobs below pre-pandemic levels, in large part due to low pay and a lack of benefits – mean families are increasingly on their own when it comes to providing care.

Supporting families by passing major national investments in paid leave, child care and home- and community-based services is essential. We must pass:

  • The FAMILY Act and the Healthy Families Act to provide people with inclusive paid leave
  • The Child Care for Working Families Act to advance high-quality, affordable child care
  • The Home and Community Based Services Access Act and the Better Care Better Jobs Act to support disabled people and families
  • The LGBTQI+ Data Inclusion Act to ensure we have a holistic understanding of all families’ needs

The time to act is more urgent than ever.

Methods note: Analysis is based on primary activities of the civilian population ages 15 and older. People younger than 15 may be providing care. People in this analysis may also be providing care as a secondary activity while performing another primary activity such as cooking or watching TV. See the American Time Use Survey Technical Note for additional information. Analysis is the value of care is based on the midpoint ($14.55/hr) between mean wages for child care workers ($14.22/hr) and home health or personal care aides ($14.87/hr),multiplied by the civilian population ages 15 and older. Care jobs analysis based on seasonally adjusted Bureau of Labor Statistics Current Employment Statistics data for February 2020 and May 2023.